Before you know it, May 3 turns into May 25. It has been 22 days since my last confession. Forgive me.

I went to New York.

It was very grand and beautiful, and most certainly not Orange County, California.

Some very generous people allowed me and my co-worker Cristina to stay with them.
They live right across the street from Barbara Streisand’s former residence.
And right across the street from Central Park.

They also have a dog who only eats real steak and chicken alfredo.

This is the view of Central Park from their living room. Not bad.

This was my view one morning as I ate breakfast and made friends with the pigeons.

My friend Leah was there from San Francisco at the same time as I.
We went to the MOMA.
This is a painting by Marc Chagall called I and the Village.

This is an illegal, ILLEGAL!!!, photo I took during the William Kentridge film and animation exhibit.
I wanted to see what the camera would do with the light.

Art is great and all…

But ladies in dresses with sunbathers in the background are even better.
Please note the sandwich in my left hand and my exceedingly good hair day.

Thank you.

Tonight a friend asked me if I have any trips planned lately. I was at an event for the nonprofit I work for.

“No,” I said. “I am not planning on going anywhere for a little while. I’m just really happy. I love my house. I love my friends. I love my job. I’m staying put.”

It was great to be able to say that and mean it.

In a few months, the tourists will start to come. Before they get here, it is good to remember that this is just down the road from where I sleep each night:

One way a storm is building.

The other way, there’s this.

And this. I will never get over this.

But the best of all is this…

I don’t know what my life would be without this.

These are ladies I work with: my boss, my co-worker, and our former intern. Tonight we worked an event together, and I am reminded again how grateful I am to have them close. And to have a job that I believe in and love.

Life isn’t always easy, but God is so, so faithful.

Remember back a few years ago, when I started this blog, and I moved to California, and I didn’t know where this California adventure would lead me or if I would even be able to stay here? Remember? This is why I’m here. And it feels so good to know that.

So, thank you God, for revealing your faithfulness to me this weekend, through the beauty of this place, and the beauty of my friends.

Apparently today was a pretty big day within the Bigfoot subculture, and thanks to gainful employment, I had no idea until I opened my computer after work and found that about 400 more people than usual hit up this blog looking for dishy gossip on the last surviving famous man who does not wax his chest. And along those lines, behold the latest drama in cyberspace, Bigfoot In a Chest.

I really need to get this Bigfoot novel written because it seems lately that we’re embarking into another phase of Bigfoot Fascination, a phenomenon that comes and goes in a fashion not unlike Alien Fascination, Vampire Fascination, or Shows With Sexy Doctors Fascination.

BTW, the latest Bigfoot drama is a hoax. I mean, you can pretty much tell from the photograph. Some good ol’ boys in Georgia apparently spent $500 on an immaculate costume, poured some entrails from the local buchery onto it, and stuffed it in a freezer. In case you doubted that it’s a hoax, those guys at BFRO, the most legitimate Bigfoot curiosity site on the web, have got our backs on this one.

And dude, if I had $300 to spare, I would totally be here at the Bigfoot Expedition in the Redwoods and drag Best Friend L along with me. My favorite part of the advertisement?:

“Every expedition to this area has resulted in at least some Class B activity, reported by multiple participants. There have also been rock throwing encounters and samurai chatter at night.” I didn’t know Bigfeet were samurai.

Perhaps I will email them and see if I can get a scholarship.

Men must’ve been walking on the roof, and I said as much. “What are they doing up there?” I asked when the building moved.

The night before the earthquake D and I were driving back up to L.A. from Newport Beach after spending Sunday and Monday in the O.C. with best friend L and her boyfriend JT. Saturday night offered a birthday party at D’s house up in the Hollywood hills for a roommate; spending the night at JT’s aunt’s home — a big-whig CBS person; a Sunday brunch with JT’s sister and brother-in-law — a studying architect and a cinematographer; a Sunday afternoon lounging on JT’s grandma’s deck in the Newport Bay while watching JT windsurf; a Sunday night snuggling on the couch to the romantic-est of romantic movies, American Psycho; a Monday driving around Newport in a 1970s convertible Volkswagen, license plate similar to but not exactly THE THING, with a surf board sticking out the back; and a Sunday early evening watching JT, L, and D surf (and attempt to surf) in our very own little section of the ocean.

In the car, on the drive home, we were tired. And satisfied. We love our friends. In the quiet satisfaction of the drive, I sang aloud the song that has been stuck in my head for days and days now, Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” a song I put on a mix CD for D before we started dating. It is off the album Tiger Lily, an album that has been somewhere in my head since I was 14. I know every lyric on it. When I was 14, I almost wished I had a broken heart so the song “Seven Years” could be true of me. It was that lovely and tragic, and I was that masochistic. Still, “San Andreas Fault” is my favorite on the album:

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest star
The world has ever seen
Sun-baked slender heroine
Of film and magazine

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest light
The world has ever seen
The dizzy height of a jet-set life
You could never dream

Your pale blue eyes
Strawberry hair
Lips so sweet
Skin so fair

Your future bright
Beyond compare
It’s rags to riches
Over there

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Terra cotta shattered
And the walls came
Tumbling down

O, promised land
O, wicked ground
Build a dream
Tear it down

O, promised land
What a wicked ground
Build a dream
Watch it all fall down

For as long as we’ve known it, the West has beckoned people with dreams; first those literal gold-diggers with their shovels and pans, those unsinkable Molly Browns. Then Hollywood boasted gold, a Golden Era where riches dwelt not in rocks but in pictures. It is that gold that people come with their pick-axes to claim now-days. There are so many people here, so many, many people who are fighting for that gold, like Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. One must wonder if this role resonated a little too deeply with Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland when she played it. Like me, she was born in Minnesota. She crossed the fault line into Hollywood. Perhaps she wouldn’t have died of a drug overdose or attempted all those suicides without all those insecurities about her appearance, exacerbated by studio execs pushing her to be a skinny woman. She might’ve had a long and happy life in Minnesota. Perhaps there really is no place like home.

Sad songs are always the best songs, and I never really understood “San Andreas Fault” until I moved to the wrong side of the actual one. At 14 I didn’t know much about youth even though I possessed it in abundance. Now that youth is ticking away, it has become a precious commodity, more precious than the number in any bank account — even William Randolph Hearst, circa 1928. I moved here not for a dream of wealth, but for a dream of youth. I came here to spend my years of sweet lips and fair skin in a land of water and seemingly endless sun.

You would think that a City of Dreams would offer its residents lovely neighbors, that the opportunities would abound like the pigeons, and all the people would drown in gold and get grills for their teeth. But maybe L.A. is called the City of Dreams and not the City of Successes because so may come here with a dream and leave without it. It doesn’t slip through just any old crack. It slips in the San Andreas Fault. That’s why we have earthquakes: All those orphan dreams are rolling around down there.

When the earthquake happened I stood up. Others I know dove to the floor. Apparently the plastic electrical plates burst off the walls in office buildings close to the origin of the quake. D’s sister E had an awkward moment with her boss under a desk. In my office, we stood in the hallway, each in a respective doorway, watching the juice our company manufactures slosh in the bottles to see if the building was still swaying and that it wasn’t just our scared little knees. A California-native hugged me. This was my first quake, wasn’t it? Was I scared?

Scared? No. So thrilled I felt it through my whole body? Yes.

It isn’t really the San Andreas Fault that scares me, even though my new homeland will supposedly someday fall into the ocean. My own faults scare me much more… faults like financial irresponsibility, worrying so much about my life that I fail to live it, the ways that I take my anger out on the people I love, the inability to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, my tendency toward depression. Meanwhile, youth ticks away. My birthday is next month. My twenties are more than halfway over.

The earthquake didn’t really scare me because the ground did not jump or shake here like I expected it to. I expected it to shake us like pennies in a jar. Instead it moved like the L.A. traffic does when you watch it from the Hollywood Hills at night. All those lights snake up the hills, in a choreography of curves and different sounds. Sometimes when I’m driving home I listen to the classical music station because its like we’re in an orchestra. Enter Ford F150 with your booming tympani; come gently little old Volkswagen Beetle with your flighty piccolo; El Diablo, bring your classical guitar; don’t forget your French Horn, Mercedes Benz. When you’re in it, it can feel jerky and unpracticed — some people play the wrong notes. But when you look above and see it happen with a different perspective, all of it works together. You see the beginning, and you see the end and all the lights and buildings and hills in between.

And when those faults do act up as they inevitably do — the Angelinos have been expecting The Big One for years now and are relieved this small one came to relieve some pressure — perhaps it truly is the best idea to run to the first doorway and stand in it until the swaying stops, and on scared little knees, take a new step.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

Once Upon a Dream

April 29, 2008

I left work at mid-day today, struggling with a migraine. I’m not even sure what I told my boss before I left. It probably did not make much sense. I had to stay about an hour later to process a few orders and make some phone calls. Now, after 3 hours of sleep, an overdose of ibuprofen tablets, and a hot shower, I finally feel better. I cannot tell you how much I wish my health would return to me. I’ve always been a naturally tired person (need naps!), but I haven’t felt 100% in a long, long time. I need to start exercising, but I think I might have mono, and I don’t want my spleen to erupt. How’s that for an excuse?

All that aside, I love my apartment. It was a glorious day, and now the wind is blowing through the palm leaves and into my bedroom through the balcony door. I especially love the night-time. Summer evenings are some of my favorite things. I can’t wait to return to Minnesota for a family reunion in August. We’re totally camping at this hoe-down of a fair called the Threshing Bee, which celebrates old methods of farming. My grandfather built a windmill on the grounds where the Bee is held, and one of his tractors, an old green  and yellow John Deere is one of the focal points of the train, tractor, and antique car parade. It’s a great ol’ time of threashin’, blue grassin’, and barbeque-in’. I am trying to convince D that it will change his life. We have been dating two years this July, and he has still not been to my hometown. He has still not met my dad. Send him nasty notes, please.

Speaking of D, the other day someone googled “my boyfriend is a model,” and it led them to my blog. It showed up in my stats, and I felt this amazing breadth of anxiety fall from my weary shoulders BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT TIME. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT MY BOYFRIEND IS A MODEL.

(thank you)

And also speaking of D, I am going to be single this weekend. D is going to a retreat for a class at school, and that means plenty of margaritas and inviting the pool boy up to my bedroom to fan me with palm leaves. It also means that I am going to spend the whole weekend sleeping, eating ice cream, and looking very, very closely at my cuticles. Oh, and I’m hoping to go to the one and only Newport Beach community garage sale to see if I can find, among other things, a bicycle built for D. That, and a Free Box full of Gucci bags. Oh wait. I am not really looking for that. That was just what I dreamt about last night. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if I actually have a pool boy.

A few weeks ago, an after-work few hours spent at the Gap, Borders, and Anthropologie at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica led to my first parking ticket. I even dodged the Koreans witnessing on the corner to save time, arriving back at my car not five minutes after the meter expired, only to find that typed out envelope with a little receipt inside. You owe the State of California $35 for your presence, here, in this parking space. You’ve stayed far too long, Minnesota. Go home.

The other day on the drive home, I glanced over into the passenger side rearview mirror on my car only to find it hanging by a wire. Someone was so kind as to knock the mirror off my car while it was parked in my work parking lot and didn’t even care to leave an “I’m sorry!” note. Thievery! Treachery!

But what I am really writing this post about is this: That despite those things, despite those drip, drip, drip details that can add up to a gargantuan level of torture from living in the second largest city in the United States, there is lobster ravioli.

Yes, friends, I have a Trader Joe’s not even a mile from my apartment, and today I discovered that they carry lobster ravioli. Just drop it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes, and voila: gourmet dinner. Goodbye, Skinniness. I am selling you for a plate of pasta encased crustacean.

Also, I’ve had a long string of good hair days.

And even though I haven’t really been working on it, I’m actually getting a tan, just from living in California. I’m convinced that it is the state of mind more than the sunshine. I work in an office with no windows, and yet I, sickly pale Minnesota girl, am getting a tan just from breathing the air and drinking the water. Maybe I will start selling Pure Los Angeles Tap Water, Straight From Our Sewers to the land-locked states of our fair union. And all those fools told me I probably shouldn’t drink the water. Bah. I’ll show them.

But maybe the best thing so far this week as that this evening I walked into my bedroom after leaving my balcony door open to release the stuffiness, and my room actually smelled like the ocean. Now, I live about five miles from the ocean, so it surprised me, but perhaps tonight the wind is just right to bring that lovely, salty, fresh, sandy smell right into my sleeping-space. Hopefully masked gangster gun-men, bent on stealing my 1960s sewing machine and 2004 Macbook (it’s nearly obsolete!), will not follow. Will lock screen door. Most thieves do not carry scissors.

I am sick for the sixth time since October. I took a sick day from work today, and while it’s not fun when your body aches all over and burns with fever then chills up, it is nice to have a day of rest. Why have I been sick so many times? I wonder if my immune system has been all wacky because of stress. Since October, this little body o’ mine has undergone almost constant stress, what with moving twice, saving money, finding a job, finding an apartment, and all the other obstacles, tra la la.

Speaking of stress, I went to the DMV this morning even though I’m sick because I need to get all my driving stuff transferred over to California. Thankfully I made an appointment, so I didn’t have to deal with the front desk lady who was reaming out the guy in front of me because he didn’t get the title on his car changed and had bought the car in July. She stood up behind the desk, turned to the people waiting in plastic chairs and yelled, “Did you hear that, y’all? Don’t you come in here trying to change over a title that should’ve been changed back in Ju-ly. If your car had gotten impounded, you wouldn’t be able to get it back.” I was standing behind Reamed-Out Guy when it happened because I hadn’t yet realized that I could slyly escape that line and move to another line for those who already had appointments. Reamed-Out Guy turned around and glanced at me — probably for sympathy — and he had a can-you-effing-believe-this??? look on his face and ultimate fear in his eyes. I smiled at him and widened my eyes, like, “I know, Dude. I know.” I then caught sight of the sign just above the counter, which said the line I was standing in was for inconveniences customers who had not made appointments. I had made an appointment, hurrah! hurrah! and stepped over to the much shorter line for appointments only. The only thing was, I forgot my passport or birth certificate. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I rushed home, hoping I could find my passport in the boxed rubble that is currently my bedroom, but I have no idea in helsinki where my passport is. I used to keep it in my jewelry box because I could find it easily there, but since I packed everything up and sold my jewelry box on a garage sale (it was getting too small for the multitudes of precious gems bestowed upon me by a vast queue of handsome suitors), I have no idea where I put it. I know exactly where my birth certificate is. In Minnesota. In my filing cabinet.

Drat.

So, I came home, exhausted from the exertion of skirting Mean DMV lady and from the effort of wildly digging through the boxes of rubble to find the passport. Geez, it annoys me when I can’t find stuff. But, I brought the paperwork with me and am filling it out to have it ready for my next DMV appointment on Tuesday.

Now I am in my pajamas, getting fat on chips and M&Ms, hoping my fever goes down so I won’t be so cold anymore.

Here are some photos. I’ve been trying to post these for a while, but the internet has been wacky:

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I snapped this on the commute home one evening. This is Los Angeles on a clear day, just before sunset. If not for this, the commute would kill us all. And, more realisticly speaking:

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This is LA on a normal day, taken atop of D’s brother G’s street in Laurel Canyon. The other day Mom told me she wanted to be in California too because I was telling her all the terrific adventures I’ve been having. Then I said, “Mom, the pollution and traffic are killing me.” When people say it’s bad, there’s no pessimism about it. IT’S BAD. But there are, literally, breaths of fresh air, and when they come along, they’re spectacular.

(Speaking of breaths, there’s this guy I know who is originally from Italy, and he constantly says, “breathe” in statements, such as “we can hardly breathe,” except he says it pronouncing a “d” instead of the “th”, and I constantly think he’s coming on to me: “We can hardly breed.” “Let’s clean some of this up so we can breed in here.” “Whew, I can finally breed.”)

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A few weeks ago Roommate J and I were still staying with D’s brother G because we had yet to find an apartment of our own. I had just started my job and had the opportunity to go to a promotional luncheon for fresh produce growers to attend and promote their products. (I work at an organic juice company. I tell people that I squeeze the oranges all the live-long day, but really folks, I’m the bookkeeper.) I got a whole bag of free food, and I brought home a vegetable tray for the three of us to sup together. So, we had dinner on the floor of Galen’s bedroom (the only warm room in the house as Californians do not believe in central heat) and drank the product of my labor: blood orange juice.

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This is Roommate J and me on the same evening:

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On Valentine’s Day, D and I celebrated the fact that we’ve been poking one another on Facebook for an entire year.

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You know it’s a special occasion when I wear earrings. I don’t own any of my own, so I borrowed these from Roommate J.

He came over and made me dinner:

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Later that weekend, D came over again, and we celebrated my first paycheck. I took him to dinner on Washington in Culver City, which is only a mile away from my residence. And let me tell you, Culver City is magical in the evening, dining el fresco with your boyfriend at a delicious Italian restaurant, with well-dressed people milling by and white lights wrapped around all the trees on the boulevard. This was one moment of breeding breathing amid the traffic, smog, and general frustrations of living in a big city.

Yesterday a man came into the office and reamed me out for parking in the Tai Kwon Do parking behind my building. This parking was not marked with any signs, but he told me that if I did it again, he’d charge me. I felt bad, started taking it personally, and said, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware I shouldn’t park there. I’ll move my car right now.” I should’ve not let it bother me and said, “So, you’re a Tai Kwon Do master? If it were anyone else I would have fought you for it.” A friend once told me that the city hardens you and squeezes out your sensitivity. I have experienced that to a degree, but it is my goal to hang onto that sensitivity I have, which some consider to be a fault, but I consider to be valuable.

More Trafficking…

February 13, 2008

Los Angeles traffic is everything people say it is and then some. My place of employment, thankfully, has provided me with the option of coming in at 8 a.m. instead of the usual 9 a.m. work time so I can miss traffic in the morning; taking a 1/2-hour lunch break; and leaving at 4:30. For the most part, I forgo the craziness of the traffic. The first week I arrived I realized that learning to drive in Minnesota has prepared me at least somewhat for the wonky city traffic: Driving with L.A. drivers is like driving during a blizzard.

It is a rare occurrence when I don’t see an accident on the road in the course of a day (Mom, don’t panic). Over and over again, the audacity of my fellow-drivers on the bright roadways of this sunshine-y state baffle and perplex me, while, so far, providing more cause for laughter than for bitterness. Take yesterday for example:

I am driving home from work and stop at a red light, which promptly turns green. I begin to proceed across the intersection when a white Lexus SUV sitting on the intersecting street guns it to make a right turn in front of me. I repeat, I have the green light. So, I honk. Honking is just what people do around here. Then big sunglasses lady inside tells me I’m #1… but with the wrong finger. And not only does she extend said finger in the rear view mirror, but she also shakes it… a good strong shake, not a dead-fish shake.

Los Angeles may be the only place on earth where other drivers get pissed at you when they make traffic violations.

*EDIT*

I forgot to tell y’all that it’s only a month until I get to see these beloved little people!!! (My brother and sister-in-law and their two kids are coming to visit next month. Disneyland, here we come!):

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Niece Lydia

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Nephew Ezra, and yes he is holding a bust of Elvis.

Living In a Movie

February 11, 2008

On the way home from work today, I was waiting at a green light for a homeless woman to cross the street so I could make a left turn. She stopped in the middle of the street, reached down, and picked up something, while I was waiting for her with a line of cars behind me, unsure if I should just go around her, lest she decide to run right in front of me. I figured she must’ve stopped to pick up some change, but I realized I was wrong when a thunk hit my roof, and I looked up to find her waving her hand dismissively and glaring at me. All I was doing was waiting to make a left turn. I didn’t even honk. There’s a reason Los Angeles’ largest industry is film: More often than not, living here feels like living in a movie.